I need a good Preamp


My current system:
Preamp:           MAC C2300
Amps:              Krell FPB 350mcx mono blocks
Speakers:        B+W 801 Series II

My MAC C2300 just quit working and really I need it in another room to pair with a MAC MC452 once it gets repaired. So, I need suggestions on what will mate up well with my Krells? I would like to spend $8k or less but I would consider going higher. I am thinking a line stage even though I did use the phono on the MAC some. I plan to add a phono amp to my system later. I just play cds with this system. Reading on this forum I sort of lean towards a used ARC 5SE or maybe a Cary SLP05 but I am open to suggestions. There are no audio shops close to me so I will be buying without getting to demo anything. I'm not too knowledgeable on stereo gear so I need some help. Thanks for the responses.
wemfan
That is one generous budget, with that said I just spent 4 years running preamps in and out of my system settling on a Lamm LL2.1 that  I just love. Other preamps that were hard to let go were the First Sounds MkIII  and the Audible Illusions Modulas 3B with the John Curl phone boards and could live with any of the three with no regrets, the 15 dB attenuation switch on the Lamm was the push for my system. There are some really great preamps available and some I tried that were supposed to be great but left a lot to be desired in my system. Good luck
ARC Ref 5SE
What type sound are you hoping to achieve.  Did you like the McIntosh sound, or are you really aiming for something else.  The ARC and the Cary sound very differently.
Really I don't know. I have had little experience with higher end gear so the Mac preamp and the Krells sound really good to my ears. The Krells sound a good bit better than the MC452 I have. They really opened things up but the C2300 is probably the most expensive preamp I have been able to listen to so naturally I like it. I listen to music both loud and at much softer volumes. I listen to acoustic music but also rock loudly at times. How does the ARC and Cary sound comparatively?
Have you considered the Mcintosh C22? Tube pre can accommodate MM&MC phono, has a Loudness switch for listening at "much softer volumes" (provides a bass boost) and has tone controls for too-bright source material. I'm expecting mine in about a month. P.S. Full retail is $6000.
I've had a FPB 300 and FBP 600 and in your budget, recommends an used VAC SigMKIIa (later upgrade it to SE ... upgrade is SIGNIFICANT).   I didn't realized what POS all my Sonic Frontier preamps were until I demoed a VAC.   

A new VAC Renaissance V SE Preamp is around your budget but I don't have personal experience so can't recommend.  If you have a VAC dealer, worth checking out.

I'm familiar with McIntosh C2200 and recommends rolling the 12ax7a with Telefunken ribbed plates.   McIntosh is not my cup of tea but replacing the cheapo Chinese tubes was a very nice improvement.
dweller, I like the retro look of the C22 but I bet it is pretty similar sounding to the preamp I am wanting to replace, the c2300. I only have two preamps and they are both Mac so I am wanting to go with something else. Good suggestion though. I bet you will love it when you receive yours.

knghifi,  I hear nothing but good things about VAC. That is a preamp I would consider. I wonder if the VAC/Krell are good mates for each other?
knghifi, tell me about FPB300 and the FPB600. How were they different and what did you like/not like about them.  Know how they would compare to my FPB 350mcxs?

Check out the PS Audio BHK preamp. It's well under your budget, sounds great, tube rollers delight and will mate with any amp. 
wemfan, FPB300 and FPB600 are cut from the same cloth. I prefer the FPB600, felt it had more control, like driving a V8 vs V4.  Even around town at low speeds, you always feel the V8 torque and power.   

I'm familiar with FPB650 mono so my guess your 350mcx is similar to the FPB600 with better separation.

Before FPBs, I had a Krell KSA100s and it was very very dark in comparison.

At the time, Krell was my favorite SS amp.  Great bass, neutral, dynamic but bright and hard and always use MIT cables to tame it. The ONLY reason I sold FPB600 is try something new.   It's one of my all time favorite amp with great great memories.

VAC preamp is a great match.  It has low impedance so can drive anything.  Very sensitive to tube rolling so you can tailor sound to your taste.

I've heard good things on PS Audio BHK preamp so worth checking out.
Wemfan,
I too have a McIntosh MC452 and had a McIntosh C50 (solid state) preamp, which I replaced with a C2500 (tube) unit, sounded a little sweeter than the C50...but then swapped out the stock tubes for a set of Genalex Gold Lions, once broken in, just sound so "musical".  The C2500 is a "keeper".  As this has recently been replaced with a C2600, you might pick up a good deal on one of the remaining C2500's.
Vac or an ARC Ref 5 se. Different voicing, so this is a personal choice
Wefman,

You first have to realize that spending more money on anything audio will not give you, "your better sound." You can spend a ton of money on two different automobiles sight-unseen, for example, and while both would demand quality and performance doesn't mean that they are both equal. You can end up with a Rolls Royce or maybe a Lamborghini, so did you get the drive that's right for you?

Combining apples and oranges may not be completely satisfying, like dropping the Rolls Royce engine into the Lamborghini.

l second mechans question to you, about what kind of sound you're hoping to achieve? If you're not sure, spend a couple of days at an Audio show. These, pop up all over the country.

IMO - Don't spend thousands of dollars until you have figured out what you like to drive.
Kenny
I don't know how it pairs with Krell or your personal taste, but I like the SLP05.  Sounds great to me paired with several SS amps and with Cary tubes, of course.  Even paired it up with an Emotiva XPA-200 for a couple days for fun (surprisingly good).

Lots of flexibility with the six 6sn7s, if you run balanced.
joinid, The PS Audio BHK does look like a worthy contender. I am looking into it. Thanks

knghifi, I appreciate your informative comments on the Krell amps. There is a 600 on here for sale right now but at 180 pounds but I am probably going to leave it alone. It is very tempting though. I love my 350s!

ejr1953, Thanks for comparing the C50 with the c2500. I was wondering how the ss mac pres stacked up against their tube stuff but I am going use the C2300 with the MC452. I am looking for something different to use with the Krells.

Kenny, good advice. I appreciate it.

stfoth, I don't know that I have any personal taste. I am not an audiophile but only a lowly musician who likes things that sound good. I don't trade or sell gear and only acquire something every so often. I have needed another preamp for a long time and since my c2300 went down I need one soon. I have read a lot of good things about the Cary. How do they differ in sound to Audio Research for instance?

Here is my situation.

MC452  This amp is in the living room and is a good match for the c2300 so I am going to install it there when I get it fixed.

I have a studio next to the house where I do most of my listening. I have two stereos set up there.
MAC mc275VI through Klipschorn speakers
Krell FPB 350mcx through B&W 801 Matrix series II

I have been using the c2300 with both set-ups depending on mood and I would like to acquire a preamp to replace it that I can continue to do that with. I know the stereos are vastly different but I enjoy them both and use them differently. The MAC is all about acoustic music played at a low volume and the Krells are about more band type stuff that I play at a much higher volume. 


Wemfan,

Similar, here.  I'm a relatively recent convert to tubes (although had tubes for awhile in guitar amps, but in no way consider myself a musician--more of an awful noise-maker with no time to make it better), like to listen to music, and don't really have a developed audiophile vocabulary.  Tweaking and tube-rolling is a bonus.  I really only sell stuff when there is an "upgrade" and can actually bring myself to let something old go.

So, really, just from a regular dude.

Anyway, I haven't heard the ARC and the Cary side-by-side in the same setup.  I heard the ARC awhile ago (can't remember where), before I had the Cary.  My impression was "wow."  Articulate, fast, meaty, and bold--from vague memory.  Of course, that would be colored by different associated gear.

Inasmuch as a comparison could be made given the different setups and time, I'd say the Cary is slower, warmer, more musical and "emotional."  So, more to my taste, nowadays.  Should it matter, it's also quite a bit less expensive, especially used.

I guess, for me, it was ARC="wow."  Cary=hair standing up on my arms and a few bucks in my pocket.

Just $.02, and probably overpriced, at that.

Good luck

Check out the Atma-sphere MP-1 or MP-3 preamps. Low output impedance, balanced and designed by an engineer/musician with the goal to reproduce music faithfully.
stfoth, I appreciate the good post. It is helpful. Not really being an audiophile I only upgrade my stuff every so often and it is really time for a new preamp. I could use some speakers as well but one thing at a time. I am reading a lot on the forums and educating myself and everything I have heard about Cary has been very good. I have had some good preamp suggestions so I am reading up on them. I will be doing something soon as I have had to fire up the old Marantz 4400 and the Cornwalls. A bit of a step down....

lowrider57, I am not very familiar with atmaspheres. Do you have some or have experience with them?
http://www.atma-sphere.com/Products/

Top of the line products, just read the reviews and search the archives for user comments.
AtmaSphere gear comes up for sale in the Classifieds and at US Audio Mart.
@wemfan,  Atma-Sphere produced the first balanced line products for high end audio. That was back in the mid 1980s.
BTW wemfan, Atmaspere makes a simple 6SN7 based preamp that can include a  phonostage  (MM I think"?).  You can always pickup a MC stage.  You know Graham Slee makes affordable excellent phono stages. I own the Gram amp 2 SE, its great.  No financial or other relation ship with either vendor mentioned.. 
Have you tried a Krell preamp? there is a synergy to components that are designed to work together. I have had a KSA200s and a FPB300, and have used them both with a updated Counterpoint SA5000 and a Krell KRC 3. In the end I chose the Krell KRC 3. I to listen to loud rock as well as solo piano. I did not miss the warm wooly feel of tubes.
I have not heard one yet,  but the PS Audio BHK preamp is the only one on my wish list.  I currently run the BHK amp, and use PS Audio's DSD DAC and their new DMP player, so i am a PS guy for sure.  great stuff for the money,  made in the USA,  and their customer service is awesome.
I like my Parasound Halo P5.
@mechans , @wemfan ,
The Atma-Sphere 6SN7 based preamp (UV-1) does offer MM or MC as an option. Its sonics are like a great classic tube preamp, but it’s single-ended, so I recommended the balanced units due to the design of your Krell monoblocks.
I don’t own any PS Audio gear except one of their power cables. I have been over to their headquarters for a tour. Nice people and I bet they are up to answering any questions you have. Here is a review of the PS Audio $6K offering. http://www.soundstagehifi.com/index.php/equipment-reviews/1028-ps-audio-bhk-signature-preamplifier

PS might let you do a buy/try.

I do own a Rogue Audio RP-1 and I am very happy with the product and there are a bunch of reviews on this product out there as well as the RP-5. The RP -7 is their flagship Pre and If you give them a call I bet they might let you do a trial on the unit. The RP -5 got some great reviews as well.

http://www.rogueaudio.com/Products_RP7.htm

I really like the way the RP-1 softened up and breathed life into my class D rotel amp and B&W foor standing speakers.
I have been into Audio for over 40 years and have had every type of preamp 
Out their. The Best I havd found similar to a SET amplifier for only ond stage purity
Is a Direct Heated Triode Preamplifier.  The sonic purity is second to none .
Also when buying commercial built products if you are lucky.just 25% of thd 
Product is the cost to build it a $10k preamp maybe $2-k in parts at best yhe rest overhead ,45-50% dealer markup.
I went yo Audio engineer Radu Tarta,  he built me  a fantastic Dual mono 
Pass labs F6 , then this Fantastic DHT preamp . I get to choose options 
On every level . For example look at your power supplies no name average after best. In hear Lundahl from  Sweden, plus chokes for further filtering  4 pole capaciyors Mundorf or Jensen in the power supply, single chassis or 2 box seperate power supply and still much less money then a commercial unit 
And put it to shame in brand name parts quality. Unless you have tried a DHT preamp in uour system you have not heard it's potential at its purest.
I am having another one built look at even the volume control I have thd Latest Khozmo with remote the ball bearing action ,most gave thd pathetic Alps blue velves you loose a lot of purity evrn through the volume. Slagle transformer volume a little better still but $1-k  ,I took the Khozmo at $400 just an example
Of possibilities and options.  The Only possible down side is if your speakers are 
Super efficient, or some amplifiers gain too high  , thd majority  of equipmrnt 
Are fine. We'll worth inquiring ,.if looking for a fantastic pre with  quality remote 
For $2-k the  fantastic tube 4P1L    Vacuum Tube and name of preamp model.  


I’d recommend looking at Coincident Technology’s linestage. These preamps don't come up on the used market very often for good reason.

Coincident Linestage (uses 101D tubes) $5,000: http://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649343645-coincident-statement-linestage-rare-remote-version-w-upgraded-tubes-and-pc-free-shipping-paypal/

Some reviews:
http://www.high-endaudio.com/RC-Statement.html
http://www.enjoythemusic.com/superioraudio/equipment/0410/coincident_statement_line_stage.htm
http://www.audio-activity.com/coincident-statement-linestage-in-english.html
http://www.coincidentspeaker.com/review_coincident_statement.html
Top level Luxman has gotten great reviews. I have their phono pre and like it very much. I would go listen to one.
I can highly recommend McIntosh C22. I've been running it in my system now for about a month and the transformation is amazing. Recommended in this year's Editor's choice Absolute Sound for what it's worth. 
<Krell dealer disclaimer>
Krell preamps work well with Krell power amps.  How about grabbing a Krell Phantom and upgrade to CAST to your 350 monos!  Yeah.  :-)  
If your inputs are to be as noted, you don’t need a preamplifier. Your hi-level sources all provide a line level signal that’s capable of driving any basic power amplifier (preferably with voltage gain ≥ 26 dB and Zin > 30 kΩ) to full output directly, without further boost. Only two functional parts will then be needed: (a) a stereo selector switch to pick the desired input, and (b) a variable stereo level attenuator to set volume. These two controls are entirely passive, and can serve as your basic control center. This minimalist design is simple, pure, and entirely optimal. No messy tone controls, because they mistrack and self-generate distortion. No balance control, because the source signal is already balanced. An accurate volume control, implemented as dual, fully calibrated stepped attenuators (not ganged “pots”), can precisely track and maintain balance at all levels.
There are numerous such devices offered. They’re popularly called “passive preamps” (no active components). My own personal pick is the Goldpoint SA4, specified with a stereo 10 kΩ stepped attenuator, from Goldpoint Level Controls, Sunnyvale, CA.: http://www.goldpt.com/index.html.
ADDENDA: If you intend to connect to any vacuum tube related signal sources, then your passive preamp should present a higher load impedance than the 10kΩ that I prefer. (I use solid-state signal sources.) The cathode followers in vacuum tube electronics like to see 20kΩ or more. So simply specify a higher input impedance for your stepped attenuators if you're going to provide a vacuum tube source signal---but preferably not higher than ~ 30kΩ.
If you like the sound of your Mac, very probably that ARC will sound dull to you. I had SP 20 and I had VSi75, they both started to work according to your expectations only at big volumes. I have Mac C22 now and it is so much more musical - to my ears of course.  

Hi wemfan, do you want a separate phono stage or included in the pre. I run an Aesthetix Io Eclipse with into an Allnic L4000 then Ayon Orthos Xs with KT150 tubes.

These are into Martin Logan CLX's so they reveal anything pre the speakers,  All sound great in my room.

The Counterpoint SA-5000 upgraded is excellent.  I can do the upgrades, but I would prefer the SA-2000 upgraded as I have more room to add goodies to it and there is no floating circuit board to work with.  The old Hovland tube preamp works very well with Krell amps. For non tube preamps the Tom Evans Vibe is an excellent preamp.  I also build DHT preamps with no caps in the signal path and I also use Slagle transformers with TVC volume control (no resistors).  I have not heard the Coincident DHT but it looks like a nice design.  I agree that once you experience DHT there is no going back.

Happy Listening. 
Why don't you let Don Sachs build you one? He builds very good custom units ,and in my opinion after personal dealings with him, is as honest as you can get. You won't spend over $2500.00 to maybe $ 3000.00. at most. Whatever you wan't, even down to the caps can be requested. He is also very easy to deal with. I have no affiliation with him except as a satisfied customer.

don@dsachsconsulting.com
I tried most the pre already mentioned the Gamut D3i bested them all.
Regards

I would look into the PrimaLuna Line and would lean towards the Prologue Premium Preamp. Price is approximately $2299.00. They are very well built, point to point hand wired and use top of the line parts. These are the real deal, dual mono construction weighing in at 37.5 pounds. Available through Upscale Audio. I would try and talk to Kevin Deal, Owner.
Audio Research Ref 6 has rave reviews and is everything they say and more.  I own one and have no inclination to change.  Yes tubes rule.  
I would recommend the Exemplar Audio WMTS XP-2.

I have the single ended offering by them and absolutely love it.

http://www.exemplaraudio.com/Products/Preamplifiers.html

jmacs7 has the right idea, I heard the Sachs SP14 pre in my system and the clarity is really something I have not heard before. Also, read the reviews and you will see I'm not the only one who hears this openness and transparency from top to bottom. My understanding is that Don is also a really great guy but I haven't talked or dealt with him myself.